THAI union says new contracts are illegal

THAI union says new contracts are illegal

Airline's job cuts drive brings flak

The labour union at Thai Airways International (THAI) has lodged a petition with the Labour Ministry complaining about the struggling airline's new employment contracts, saying they are unfair and illegal.

THAI plans to cut its workforce from 19,500 people to 13,000-15,000 within five years so the new scheme involves revising contracts while seeking 6,000-7,000 voluntary redundancies.

Chansin Treenuchagron, the airline's acting president, said the new contracts were part of company efforts to restructure and come back stronger. The airline was asking for workers' cooperation.

He insisted that those who agreed to the new contracts did not have to resign first, and said those chosen to continue working for the airline would have job security.

According to Mr Chansin, the airline made sure the contract scheme was in compliance with the law and fair to employees under the current circumstances.

Siripong Sukrakanchanachoke, the labour union president, and Nares Puengyam, a union adviser, met Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin to convey the airline staff's concerns about new employment terms and conditions.

THAI's staff are being urged to agree to new contracts in which salaries and benefits will be cut. The new terms are part of the airline's efforts to reduce operating costs under its debt rehabilitation plan.

Mr Siripong said the revised contracts were unfair and breached the State Enterprise Relations Act and the employees have no idea if they will be reassigned or where they will end up.

Mr Nares said he warned those responsible for implementing the rehabilitation plan about changes which were not in line with the State Enterprise Relations Act.

He also said attempts were under way to coerce employees into agreeing to the new employment terms. He warned that staff must not be forced or intimidated into agreeing to new contracts.

Mr Suchart said the ministry would ensure employees' rights were protected. He said the airline's executives had guaranteed severance pay would be made to those who faced being laid off.

THAI executives planned a staff meeting to clarify the new employment terms this week, so employees could make an informed decision about their future. Those who wanted to stay on with the airline would have to apply to do so between March 11-19 and the result would be announced on April 1. However, many THAI employees consider the changes to employment contracts as an attempt to force them to quit.

Meanwhile, Apantri Charoensak, vice president of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, on Thursday led a group of Suvarnabhumi airport security guards to file a complaint with the Labour Ministry over unfair treatment.

She said about 300 workers were forced to sign resignation letters between April 23-30 last year to ease job transfers from ASM Management Co to AOT Aviation Security Co Ltd. She said the transfer move was sudden and employees, who rushed to sign the new contracts as they were afraid of losing their jobs, found out later their years of service were not carried over to the new firm and the terms of employment were also changed.

According to Ms Apantri, women on staff were not allowed to use toilets during their eight-hour shift and many suffered urinary tract infections as a result. They were also denied a one-hour lunch break. Those taking sick leave without a doctor's certificate would see their pay deducted while employees aged over 50 saw their leave days slashed from six days to four.

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